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Introducing Dogs and Children

Friday, July 27, 2012
Introducing Dogs and Children

Whether you're bringing a new dog into your home or introducing a new baby to the household for the first time, these changes bring about many exciting emotions! You just can't wait to introduce your dog to your child, and vice versa. A whole world of experiences is awaiting them both, and the entire family. But have you ever wondered about the best way for them to get to know one another? Here are a few things to consider.

Introducing a new child to your dog:

- Ideally, your dog should have plenty of contact with children as a puppy to get him accustomed to the idea.
- The dog should be responsive and know how to obey basic commands.
- Before your child arrives, do a little prep work by behaving more like a child toward your dog. Focus on petting your dog's ears, tail, and paws like a child might do. Then, reward your dog for cooperating with this type of contact. It may also be helpful if other children do the same.
- Teach your dog not to snatch food or toys from a hand. Instead, teach him to take only what's offered. You can practice this with the help of other children.
- If your dog is used to spending all his time with you, try your best to gradually reduce this before your new child arrives. This will help eliminate any potential shock.
- Once the new baby arrives, immediately reward the dog in his or her presence, either with a treat or with affection and praise. Shutting your dog away or scolding him may lead him to perceive the child in a negative light.
- Use your best judgment. If you feel the relationship between your dog and new child still requires some effort, don't leave them alone together as both of their curiosities may get carried away.

Introducing a new dog to your child:

- Considering an older dog? Before you decide this is the dog for you, make sure he gets along with children. You can look into this by researching his breed or asking questions about his previous owner.
- If you're bringing home a puppy, make sure he's young enough to be socialized with children. Ideally, he'll have had some previous exposure to children.
- Despite your child's curiosity, he or she needs to learn eventually that your dog is not a toy, but an equal member of the family.
- Let your children in on the fun! Encourage them to take part in any activities with your dog, like going on a walk or spending the afternoon at the dog park with the family.
- When your child is old enough and feels ready, encourage him or her to take part in training and obedience activities. The joint effort will help establish a healthy relationship between the two of them.

Like anything in life, getting your new child and/or new dog accustomed to one another can be both rewarding and challenging. But with a little patience and a lot of love, they'll have a fun-loving relationship in no time!

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